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Automakers push to protect spectrum for WiFi connected vehicles

Automakers push to protect spectrum for WiFi connected vehicles

Automakers, states and safety advocates are urging the White House not to open up a portion of the wireless spectrum currently set aside for vehicles with Wi-Fi technology.

The letter, signed by more than 50 car companies, puts the administration at the center of an ongoing battle between automakers and companies seeking to use a 5.9 GHz unlicensed spectrum band for wireless devices.

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Cable and technology groups have been vying to share a portion of the wireless spectrum that is currently reserved for highway auto-safety initiatives, saying the 5.9 GHz band would be an ideal way to address the “dangerously congested” wireless space.

In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission set aside 75 megahertz of the band in order to help fulfill the Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program, which aims to allow vehicles to communicate with one other using roadside systems over so-called dedicated short range communications.

But cable groups say the program has not yet made meaningful use of the band and asked the administration, in a separate letter last week, to reconfigure the band to allow shared use.

“Other technologies have developed over this time that have overtaken ITS in the marketplace,” they wrote. “We therefore must ask whether subsidizing this yet-to-market commercial technology with spectrum and effectively preventing robust consumer Wi-Fi use of the band remains good public policy seventeen years later.”

Automakers pushed back against the proposal and emphasized the importance of vehicle-to-vehicle safety signaling technology, in which cars can send wireless signals to each other and thus avoid crashes.

“One of the most — if not the most — significant advances in vehicle safety is now coming into existence,” the automakers wrote in their letter. “We urge you to stay the course and complete the action your Administration has undertaken to improve the safety of drivers and passengers on America’s roadways.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing a DOT proposal that would require all new cars to be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle systems.

The FCC and DOT have already agreed to test potential band-sharing solutions, but officials said testing needs to be completed before they make a decision on sharing the spectrum.

“There is still time for both Wi-Fi and ITS to design their wireless operations with sharing built in so the band can enable ITS and benefit Wi-Fi consumers,” the cable companies said.